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Best Attempt

Best Attempt

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I must have tried 20 diets as a teenager, but one stands out in my mind.

There was this CD you were supposed to listen to that would help condition you not to eat certain foods. “Don’t look at fries as a delicacy!” the voice on the CD bellowed, “but imagine the fat in a concealed form clogging your arteries!” Consistently listening to such messages was going to be the key to my weight loss, for how could I contemplate eating something that my brain perceives as being repugnant?

The guy might not have been too far off. In Chapter 14 of Tanya, the author sums up the type of Divine service accessible to every single Jew.

On the one hand, “Al tehi rasha (“Don’t be a wicked person”). Regardless of how much you want to indulge in a selfish or sinful act, you can choose to abstain by reminding yourself that you don’t want to be disconnected from G‑d for even one moment.

At the same time, “Tehi tzaddik (“Be a righteous person”). Even though you will most likely never lose your feelings of pleasure from material things, you can temper it by choosing to meditate on how short-lived self-gratifying pleasures are, and learning to associate them with a feeling of repulsion (as in the food example above). You can also make your best attempt at mimicking a tzaddik by meditating on the greatness of G‑d—on the one hand teaching yourself to appreciate a higher level of pleasure; and on the other, learning to experience spirituality as a “real” pleasure.

Tanya Bit: While you cannot completely let go of your attraction to material pleasures, you can develop a slight aversion to overindulgence and an appreciation for spirituality.

(Inspired from Chapter 14 of Tanya)

Sara Blau is a teacher and extracurricular director at Beth Rivkah High School. She is a wife, mother, and author of several children“s books.
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